Long delays in US visitor visas hit Indian businesses and families | India News

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Amit Mishra (name changed) is the CEO of his family business in Delhi. The company has a subsidiary in New Jersey in America which was established eight years ago.
The US branch manager, a US citizen, now wishes to retire.
Mishra has to go to the US branch so that he can hire another person for the position and the transfer of responsibilities has to be done in his presence.
However, Mishra’s B1-B2 US visitor visa expired in August 2021 and although he is eligible for a visa interview waiver; he received a “dropbox” appointment to file the documents necessary for renewal only in November 2022; there are no earlier dates available.
His business is hit hard and he has to travel urgently; but with the US embassy and consulates in India unable to give dates for visa interviews or drop box appointments for the next two months, he can do nothing but wait. .
And like Mishra, there are hundreds of Indians – including parents who want to visit their children studying at American universities, families who want to visit loved ones and executives who want to travel for business meetings. and conferences — which have been hit by long delays in obtaining U.S. visitor visas since the pandemic.
“So far, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates only provide dates for visitor visa renewals. There are no interview dates for those wishing to apply for a new visitor visa. B1-B2. Even for visa renewals, for which no interview is required, document submission dates are only available after several months. Our customers, who need to travel for urgent business, become restless,” says Vipul Joshi, a Mumbai-based immigration lawyer from law firm Sudhir Shah and Associates.
Sometimes the dates are published by the embassy and consulates on their website, but they fill up in minutes and you have to be really lucky to check at that time and be able to book time slots on those dates. And that adds to the uncertainty, adds Joshi. Even after submission of documents, processing of US visitor visas takes, in some cases, more than two weeks.
“After submission, consulates sometimes take more than two weeks to return the passport with the stamped visa. So there is uncertainty at every stage and no one can predict realistic timelines,” says Joshi.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, the US visa processing fee was raised from Rs 12,480 to Rs 12,800, at the exchange rate set at $1 = INR 80.
Last year, the US government introduced interview waiver programs for several visa categories until December 2023. However, despite the interview waivers, visa backlogs in India continue and experts from the Travel industry is still unable to determine when the timeline for issuing US visas will return to pre-pandemic status.
“Given the likely backlogs for different visa categories, I believe it could be another 6-8 months before the U.S. Embassy and Consulates can return to the pre-pandemic schedule of granting visitor visas and other visa categories in India,” says Joshi. He adds that currently, students planning to go to the United States for the fall semester this year are being granted a large number of visa interviews and it seems that other categories are pending. “By September, the rush for students will likely be over, and we hope to see more B1-B2 applicants on board,” says Joshi.
The only cases for which new B1-B2 visas are issued quickly are medical or other emergencies. “Even in such situations, obtaining a visa cannot be guaranteed and it depends on the discretion of the visa officers,” adds Joshi.
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